Sunday Self-Scaler 8
A detailed guide on how to bounce back from inconsistency, a thought stirring book worth reading, and a powerful mental exercise to truly live life
When the quarantine first started, gyms shut down and as a fitness enthusiast that loved lifting weights, this was a highly unwelcome situation.
I sulked and didn’t work out for the first few days but then I saw that I had two choices — continue whining or make the most out of the situation.
I chose the latter and started working out at home. In the beginning, motivation was at its peak and I was pretty consistent but as time went on and motivation waned, I became irregular.
“The inertia of inconsistency is pretty strong and the more you skip, the more you feel like skipping.”
Once it so happened that I skipped 2 days in a row. Then I skipped the third and before I knew it, I had skipped close to an entire week.
The inertia of inconsistency is pretty strong and the more you skip, the more you feel like skipping. This reminds me of a funny quote,
“Inconsistency is the only thing in which men are consistent.” — Horace Smith
On the sixth day, seized by guilt, I got in a pretty good workout and another the next day before slipping back into inconsistency. This soon came to the point that I would work out one day and skip one or even 2 days.
After a rather long cycle of feeling guilty, trying to be consistent, and failing, I finally managed to get back to a consistent routine. It was a struggle and I made quite a few mistakes.
In fact, bouncing back from inconsistency is something most struggle with so I want to share my experience, ideas, and thoughts on how you can do it.
The first step to getting back into a consistent habit is wanting to do it. As long as you are okay and comfortable with being inconsistent, you wouldn’t want to change it.
“The first step to getting back into a consistent habit is wanting to do it.”
This was the mistake I made when I first became inconsistent. I found reasons and excuses such as not having enough time, feeling tired, etc. to justify it instead of addressing it for what it was.
Take a step back and evaluate yourself. You are being irregular and only you are to blame for it. No, no do not justify yourself. Any reason you give is but an excuse and you know it too! Lament and feel the regret.
“No, no do not justify yourself. Any reason you give is but an excuse and you know it too!”
You have had enough of it and now want to make amends, yes, that’s great! That’s the attitude to have.
Break the Chain
Consistency is a pretty powerful thing but so is inconsistency. As I said earlier,
“The inertia of inconsistency is pretty strong and the more you skip, the more you feel like skipping.”
You skip one day. One turns into two. Two into four and so on. It’s like a chain that keeps doubling in length. It doesn’t take long for the break to become forever.
No, You Don’t Have to Be Consistent
The key here is breaking the chain. Yes, that’s all. When you aim to get back into a consistent habit, it seems overwhelming and you will procrastinate.
When I wanted to get back to regularly working out, the prospect of having to leave the comfort of the couch and work my ass off 6 days a week loomed largely.
“But with the aim being just breaking the chain, it gets easier.”
“It’s already been so many days, just one more won’t hurt. I will start working out consistently from the day after tomorrow.”, I think.
Needless to say, another 4 days went by.
The problem with just another day, just another episode, or “just another” anything is that it never stops with just another.
But with the aim being to just breaking the chain, it gets easier. One workout seems much more doable and easier than getting back into a consistent routine, right?
Small Is Enough
When I tried to break the chain, I went all out and banged myself up pretty bad. I was so sore the next day that I didn’t bother working out. I had a legit excuse after all right?
“It doesn’t matter how much. Take the victories as they come. The victory here is in just showing up.”
I went on another “skip streak” thereby defeating the entire purpose. This is exactly why small is enough. Read just a page, get in a short workout, run for just a kilometer.
It doesn’t matter how much. What matters is you showing up. Take the victories as they come. The victory here is in just showing up.
“So when you break the inconsistency chain, you start a new chain, the good kind, the consistency kind, one that can potentially grow long.”
The First Link of a New Chain
The best part about showing up after long is that you would want to show up again — When I worked out after a lot of off days, I felt a new surge of motivation and worked out the next day too.
So when you break the inconsistency chain, you start a new chain, the good kind, the consistency kind, one that can potentially grow long.
We all love playing games. One of the primary reasons is the pleasure, the dopamine release when “leveling up”. We love dopamine and as a result, love doing things that trigger its release.
“If you are creative enough, anything and everything is a game.”
The good thing is that you can level up in anything as if you are creative enough, anything, and everything is a game. We can gamify getting back to a consistent habit and make the process fun. Ain’t that rad?
The Streak Is the Score
The game is pretty simple. The number of consecutive days you stick to your habit is your score. The score resets to zero when you break the streak and getting a higher score is how you “level up”.
With this in mind, I eagerly started off. I got past the first three days easily and on the fourth day, I felt lazy and wanting to take the day off.
“The streak became something I was proud of and wanted to “preserve”.”
But the prospect of the score resetting to zero and having to start all over made me get off my ass and get in the workout.
The Longer the Streak, the Lesser You Would Want to Break It
The streak slowly but certainly grew. This wasn’t like the inconsistency chain that grew exponentially and easily, this grew painfully slowly.
The funny thing was that as the streak grew longer, I felt more inclined towards making it even longer than breaking it. The streak became something I was proud of and wanted to “preserve”.
“ Also, the longer the streak, the heavier the thought of having to start over. A fall from 5 to 0 ain’t as bad as from 20 to 0.”
The thought of taking a day off seemed insignificant compared to keeping the streak going. Also, the longer the streak, the heavier the thought of having to start over. A fall from 5 to 0 ain’t as bad as a fall from 20 to 0.
This is a positive loop — as the streak becomes longer, the lesser you want to break it, the streak becomes even longer, and so on.
“The thought of taking a day off seemed insignificant compared to keeping the streak going.”
Beat Your Past Score
When you break the streak, it will feel bad. Real bad. But not all is lost. Starting over is hard but it provides you an opportunity to beat your last score. So beat it.
The first time I broke my streak, it was after 10 days of regularly working out. When I started again, the goal was to complete at least 11 days and I didn’t even entertain the thought of taking a day off until I reached day 11.
“I didn’t feel guilty but rather satisfied as the break felt like something I had earned.”
I went on past day 11 and it was only on day 14 that I took a break. The funny thing is that I didn’t feel guilty but rather satisfied as the break felt like something I had earned.
You Won’t Even Realize It
The only thing that mattered was consistently beating my past score. Ten, fourteen, seventeen, fourteen, twenty, thirty, and so on, my score kept going up except for that little dip after seventeen.
I was traveling on my fifteenth day and so had to take the day off.
“We are human and a short dip is okay. What isn’t okay is letting it bog down your progress.”
Well, that is still an excuse and I could have worked out had I really wanted to. But heck! I am, we are human and a short dip is okay. What isn’t okay is letting it bog down your progress.
By thirty, I was back to being completely consistent.
That’s just how it is — the numbers add up slowly but certainly and before you even realize it, you would be back into a regular habit.
If creating a habit is one-half of the battle, sticking to it and making it last is another. We sometimes go offroad and when we do, it becomes quite hard to get back on track. Here’s how you can easily get back on track,
Strongly desire to get back on track. The first step to getting back on track is wanting to. Take full responsibility for your irregularity, lament, and firmly decide to get back with consistency,
Break the irregularity chain. Thinking of suddenly going back to a stringent regular habit can be overwhelming. So don’t think of being consistent, just think of breaking your “skip streak” and do just that.
Gamify the process. We love games because of the dopamine rush. Turn the process into a game where the score is your consistency streak and the goal is to keep beating the past score. With this, before you even realize it, you will be back to a consistent routine.
A Thought-Provoking and Heart-Wrenching Book Worth Checking Out
This book had been on my To-read list for quite some time but I finally picked it up and finished it in just two sittings. The book is - They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera.
As the title says, it’s a book about two kids - 18-year-old Mateo and 17-year-old Rufus who are about to die.
In this world, Death-Cast is an organization that calls on the day of a person’s death and the person Death-Cast has called becomes a “Decker” for the rest of the day and is encouraged to live their life, or more accurately their last day to the fullest.
This heart-warming tale of how these two boys go from suspecting strangers to ultra-close friends and more. And then the ending hits you in the face - tragic and absolutely heart-rending despite you expecting it from the beginning.
More than the emotional element, there’s a thought-provoking element. Our world is no different from theirs. In fact, I’d say even worse as we don’t even get a heads-up the day we’re about to die.
The scary fact is that it could be today, tomorrow, or the day after. Yes, it totally could. '“Now” is the only moment that is guaranteed to us. Even the next moment isn’t.
This makes me think - just how many of us are going through life hating our lives and dreaming of a better future but not bothering to work towards our dream lives. A surprising majority of us.
You could die tomorrow. If you were to, would you want to truly live life or just exist?
A Simple yet Powerful Mental Exercise
This exercise follows from what I talked about the unpredictability and inevitability of death in the earlier section.
Life is limited and death is inevitable. Every day brings us closer to death.
Reminding ourselves of this every single day and living mindfully is what this exercise is. It’s called Memento Mori or “Remember that you have to die”.
Mediating upon our own death might seem like an uncomfortable prospect for most and it is. It has to be.
When we get comfortable with death, the doors to life open up. When we start to live and not just exist, life never seems short. As Marcus Aurelius says,
When the longest- and shortest-lived of us dies, their loss is precisely equal. For the sole thing of which any of us can be deprived is the present, since this is all we own, and nobody can lose what is not theirs.
Live every day mindful of the inevitability of death and you’ll do things that you really think matter.
That’s all for today guys! Hope you found something of value in this. As always, feel free to leave any criticism, comments, and feedback - be it improvements, ideas, new topics, or anything else.